INDIANAPOLIS – Reggie Wayne used the story of a young injured man to send his teammates an emphatic message Saturday.
There are no boundaries when you dream big.
The Pro Bowl receiver who always makes a grand entrance to start training camp asked Indiana University Health's LifeLine helicopter to give him a lift and invited Matt Sercer, a Colts fan who severely injured his leg and foot in a farming accident in December, to come along for the ride. When they landed on an intramural field at Anderson University, Wayne stood side-by-side to be photographed with Sercer.
"A lot of things were not expected of Matt to be able to walk again and things of that nature. But as you can see, he's here standing with me. Got out the chopper, he walked over," Wayne said. "Guys like Matt and stories like Matt's, they're the real heroes. It inspires you to go out there and do great and prove people wrong. A lot of people didn't think Matt would be able to walk again, and he's out here moonwalking with me."
For Wayne, the special arrivals — and the themes that come with them — have become a regular part of the training camp routine.
Last year, Wayne dressed in military fatigues and arrived as part of an Indiana National Guard convoy. He wanted his new teammates to take a page from the military manual by being supportive, selfless warriors who could overcome all obstacles, even those unforeseen. It turned out to be a fitting message as one of the NFL's youngest teams improved form 2-14 to 11-5 and reached the playoffs despite losing Chuck Pagano for 12 games as he battled leukemia.
This year's message was short and sweet.
"I sat back and thought we got a pretty good team. I really think our team this year is better than last year. If we don't hurt ourselves, the sky's the limit for us," Wayne said. "I really sat back and thought 'sky's the limit, sky's the limit,' why not come in through the sky?"
Guessing Wayne's mode of travel to training camp has become a favorite game among teammates and coaches.
It all started in 2002 when Edgerrin James' Florida drivers' license was suspended, so James and Wayne, teammates in college at Miami and then with the Colts, hired a taxicab to take them from Indianapolis to training camp about 75 miles away in Terre Haute, Ind. The cost was $200.
The next year, Wayne and James drove a bus full of children onto the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology campus. When James left as a free agent for Arizona in 2006, the torch was passed to Wayne, who began his solo act by wearing James' new Cardinals jersey to training camp.
Since then, he's shown up in myriad ways and costumes. Until Saturday, though, he had not arrived through the air. This time, Wayne wore a black Lifeline flight suit, a red Washington Nationals cap and red high-tops but said emphatically that he did not fly the helicopter.
Now that the fun part of camp is over, it's time to get back to business. Indianapolis will hold the first of three weeks of workouts Sunday on the Division III campus about 25 miles northeast of Indianapolis.
The early days are sure to come with some reminders about expectations and not just from Wayne and the veterans.
Over the past month, three players ran into trouble off the field. Receiver LaVon Brazill and tight end Weslye Saunders were both suspended by the NFL for violating league policies — and backup safety Joe Lefeged was arrested in Washington on a gun possession charge.
Saunders was cut by the team Thursday after receiving an eight-game suspension for failing a performance-enhancing drug test for the second time in 18 months. Brazill will miss the first four games after violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
"I think you're always concerned and disappointed with problems, but at the same time, you have to realize that it's an impossibility that you're going to have zero problems. That's just not realistic, that's not the way life works," team owner Jim Irsay told The Associated Press earlier this week. "So we're disappointed, but at the same time, we deal with it, and we move on and do the best you can to try and avoid any of those problems."
Pagano is hoping the immediate focus will be on the field.
The Colts are hoping a rebuilt offensive line will better protect Andrew Luck, a revamped defense will be a better fit with Pagano's version of the 3-4 defense and that another year of maturation will help the Colts make a deeper playoff run. Meanwhile, Luck flew to South Florida for workouts with Wayne, Brazill and T.Y. Hilton, and returned to California so he could throw with Darrius Heyward-Bey and others before coming to Anderson.
"To get better and try to be the best quarterback for this team and what we need to put ourselves in chances to win games," he said. "That's what we want to do."
Online: AP NFL site: http://pro32.ap.org/